Steppenwolf
and destroyed it; each time I had been deserted by and lost a cherished and particularly dear part of myself. In one such instance, as well as my worldly wealth, I had lost my reputation as a respectable citizen, and had to learn to live without the esteem of those who previously had raised their hats to me. A second time my family life had collapsed overnight. My wife, falling mentally ill, haddriven me out of house and comfortable home; love and trust had suddenly turned into hatred and mortal combat; the neighbours watched me go with a mixture of sympathy and disdain. That had been the beginning of my progressive isolation. And once more, after a period of years, cruelly hard years when I had been
able, in strict isolation and by means of harsh self-discipline, to construct a new life based on ascetic and spiritual ideals and to regain a certain degree of calm and sovereign control, this rebuilt existence, dedicated to exercises in abstract thought and strictly regulated meditation, had also collapsed, having all at once lost its noble and lofty purpose. Something launched me on mad, strenuous journeys around the world again, leading to new suffering and new guilt in abundance. And each time, before tearing off one of my masks and witnessing the collapse of one of my ideals, I had experienced the same dreadful emptiness and silence, the same sense of being caught in a mesh, isolated, without human contact, the same empty and barren hell, bereft of love and hope, that I was now obliged to go through once again.
    Every time my life had been shattered in this way I had, there is no denying it, ended up gaining something or other; something in the way of liberty, intellectual and spiritual refinement, profundity, but also in the way of loneliness, since I was increasingly misunderstood or treated coldly by others. From a bourgeois point of view my life had been, from each shattering blow to the next, one of steady decline, a movement further and further away from all things normal, acceptable and healthy. Over the years I had lost my profession, my family and my home, and now I stood alone, an outsider to all social circles, loved by no one, viewed with suspicion by many, in constant, bitter conflict with public opinion and public morality. And even though I still lived in a bourgeois setting, everything I thought and felt nevertheless made me a stranger among the respectable people of that world. For me religion, fatherland, family and
state, having been devalued,were no longer matters of concern. I was sickened by the pompous antics of those involved in academic life, the professions and the arts. My opinions, my tastes, my whole way of thinking, which had once upon a time made me popular, a man of talent who shone in conversation, were now so degenerate and decadent that people found them suspect. I may have gained something as a result of my painful series of transformations, something invisible and incalculable, but I had been made to pay dearly for it, my life having on each occasion become harsher, more difficult, more isolated, more at risk. Believe me, I had no cause to want this journey of mine to continue since, like the smoke in Nietzsche’s autumn poem, 1 it was heading for regions where the air would become thinner and thinner.
    Ah yes, I knew these experiences, knew them all too well, these transformations that fate has in store for its problem children, the most awkward of its progeny. I knew them as an ambitious but unsuccessful hunter may know the various stages of an expedition or an old stock-exchange gambler the sequence of speculating, making a profit, losing confidence, wavering, going bankrupt. Ought I really to go through that whole process yet again? All that torment, the terrible distress, all the insights into one’s own vile and worthless self, all the awful fear of failure, all the mortal dread? Wasn’t it wiser and easier to avoid any repetition of so much suffering by getting the hell out?

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